Hiring a country manager in New York. Travelstart anti success stories 10/30


9 years ago
Travelstart was, for a brief time, owned by a German discounter called
Flights.com (previously Tiss.com).  After the acquisition I became the business development
manager and got to travel around the world starting up new businesses and scout
for opportunities. Flights.com was a start up and there was no structure
whatsoever. But we had loads of money. And that was really nice.

I had just “come
out” of a start up myself where I had to spend every penny like it was my last
one, Commuting to work in a bus full with people from all ethnic backgrounds, feisty
school kids, and the lower middle class didn’t exactly made me feel like a
winner before going to work in the mornings. But reading Business 2.0, Red
Herring and Harvard Business Review lifted my spi.jpgrit. Now suddenly travelling
in business class staying in swanky hotels with limo services of course made me
feel a bit more… cool.

Our company
decided to make a splash in the US early 2000 and I was put in charge of the
project. We all had hubris. Our company arranged a recruitment firm for the
search of a country manager. The world was high on dot com valuations. We got some
hundred applicants through Monster.com. It took me a week to scan them. After
the usual short listing we set a date, booked a suite at Grand Hyatt; New York,
and off we went.

The morning
of the meetings I was so jetlagged that I didn’t know what was up and what was
down. We had taken the late flight out of Copenhagen that arrives in New York
close to midnight so I was wasted. My colleague Paul and I had lots of coffee
and it helped temporarily. We were to meet some 12 people in one day. First three
meetings were really interesting and energy and hope was high. The applicants
had interesting backgrounds. Most of them had passed 40 and some even 60. Perhaps
not the ideal candidates for a start up but … many of them had stories and CV´s
so you could write a book. My compassionate and humane side had a great time
listening to; deaths of husbands, collapse of companies and careers, the ups
and downs of wall street CEO´s, people loosing all the money and hope on black
Monday in 87, the airline pi.jpglot turning airline CEO and ex Eastern Airlines
executives trying to make come backs in dot com. But my bottom line focused and
no bullshit side was having a break down.

By lunchtime
we were done with some 4 interviews and I was ready to crumple. The height of
the day was the Caesar salad with chicken AND prawn and a delicious sauce.

I tried to
pi.jpgcture all these people from different careers and backgrounds’ to fit into
our Swedo/German money blind start-up with more money than brains and no plan.
I remember thinking, cant wait to get a drink.

By three o
clock I was reaching peoples history overload and I was about to jump out
through the window. But after meeting number 11 I felt myself coming into the
second wind. The applicants caught my attention and got more interesting and by
8 PM I thought we even might have one or two that actually could do the job.

 Most of them actually had no clue about
Internet and much less E-travel, but such were the times back in early 2000.  I realized that they all expected us to
set up a large US based organisation. These guys were used to lead hundreds and
sometimes thousand of people. A German company backed by Goldman Sachs
intrigued them all. They were all there for the possibility of an IPO where
stock options could be worth gazillions. You get the best of both worlds. A
boss that’s on the other side of the ocean and you get to play with his money. C’mon
suck it to me!

At 8 PM I
was just about dead and the meetings were finally over. We left the Hyatt for a
drink over at… somewhere. We sat in the bar overlooking Manhattan. The Vodka
martinis were HUGE. As I sipped the first one I looked at Paul and asked, “So
do we have a possible country manager?” 
He said in his typi.jpgcally coolish style – NO! And the Martinis tasted
just heaven.



We never
hired a country manager in the US. We eventually bought a company. Things never
took off and we eventually ran out of money and yeah well the rest is obvious.

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